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More studies are finding that supplementing with vitamin D is not living up to its original promise - that is, as a supplement that can prevent or treat all sorts of health conditions. Two recent large studies found that daily vitamin D supplementation in persons with or without a vitamin D deficiency didn't reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.

Both studies found that no matter the vitamin D dose - low (800 IU/day), high (3200 IU/day), or even taken as a cod liver oil supplementdidn't prevent COVID infection, serious COVID, or any other respiratory infection. Very disappointing findings!

The researchers stress that both study results underscore that the COVID vaccines are the best way to protect a person from COVID-19 or a serious COVID illness. They advise that only persons with a vitamin D deficiency need vitamin D supplements. [Note: The best form of vitamin D is D3, which was given to the study participants.]

However, it must be pointed out that some other studies have found that vitamin D does lower how many respiratory infections a person gets each year (while other studies find no effect). So we'll see... more studies are ongoing.

From Medscape: Vitamin D Supplementation Shows No COVID-19 Prevention

Two large studies out of the UK and Norway show vitamin D supplementation has no benefit — as low dose, high dose, or in the form of cod liver oil supplementation — in preventing COVID-19 or acute respiratory tract infections, regardless of whether individuals are deficient or not. ...continue reading "Two Studies Find Vitamin D Doesn’t Prevent COVID"

Finally, it looks like soon everyone will be able to read the published scientific research articles that were funded by US taxpayer dollars. Instead of being behind a journal's "paywall" - which means you have to pay money to read the article (e.g. $40. !!), we will be able to read it for free.

According to the directive issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), this must occur no later than December 31, 2025.

It is incredibly frustrating to read the abstract (very short summary) of a research article, but not be able to read the actual article. Especially when you know that we (you and I) paid for the research to take place. The only beneficiaries of that system are the journal publishers, who make oodles of money off of research articles that they got for free. Blech...

There has been a move towards open access (everyone has free access) of published research anyway, and this will just hasten it. One noteworthy open access publisher is PLOS (plos.org) and another open access journal is Environmental Health Perspectives (receives support from the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

This is great! And should have happened years ago.

From The Scientist: No More Paywalls on Federally Funded Research: White House

In 2013, a memo from then-head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren directed federal agencies to come up with a plan to make all the research they fund freely available to the public within 12 months of publication. Today (August 25), the current acting head of the same office, Alondra Nelson, released a memo that goes a step further, mandating that agencies ensure their research is available in publicly accessible repositories immediately on publication, by December 31, 2025 at the latest.  ...continue reading "Federally Funded Research Won’t Be Behind Paywalls In the Future"

Hair loss is a huge concern among adults, especially as they age. This week the NY Times printed an article about an inexpensive medicine that works amazingly well to restore hair. The treatment is to take a small dose of minoxidil daily and this results in hair growth.

This is the same hair loss treatment drug that is typically applied directly to the scalp (it's the active ingredient in Rogaine). But taken as a very low-dose pill it works even better. Taken in this low dose pill form is taking it "off-label" , which is a common practice in dermatology. Minoxidil is also an anti-hypertensive medicine (at higher doses).

The before and after photos in the article are fabulous - from very thin to lush, thick hair.

Excerpts from the New York Times: An Old Medicine Grows New Hair for Pennies a Day, Doctors Say

The ads are everywhere — and so are the inflated claims: Special shampoos and treatments, sometimes costing thousands of dollars, will make hair grow. But many dermatologists who specialize in hair loss say that most of these products don’t work. ...continue reading "Restoring Hair With Low Doses of A Common Medicine"

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This month a number of persons asked me about the probiotic Lactococcus lactis (in Probiorinse) and whether it works. This product is marketed to people with sinusitis or sinus infections, with the message that it improves the sinus microbiome and sinus health. Does it?

Unfortunately, the research says no. A well-done study published last year found that the bacteria Lactococcus lactis (Probiorinse) doesn't help to improve sinus symptoms in those with sinus issues. Yes, that bacteria is found in the sinuses, but it is not a keystone bacteria (one with a big effect) in sinus health.

The study compared the Probiorinse (Lactococcus lactis) product to Xlear (xylitol) and regular saline rinses.

The researchers tested xylitol, the probiotic Lactococcus lactisand ordinary saline rinses separately for one month in a group of persons with chronic sinusitis. They found that none of these improved sinusitis symptoms or sinus microbial diversity (the sinus microbiome). In other words, there were no significant differences among the 3 groups.

Those with chronic sinus problems still had them at the end of the study, and their sinus microbiomes and symptoms were still very different from those of the healthy participants.

By the way, another study analyzed Lactoccocus lactis (using the product Probiorinse) against some strains of harmful bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) collected from persons with chronic sinusitis and found "no effect on 4 strains, a modest inhibitory effect on one strain, and a modest proliferative effect on one" (it increased this harmful strain!). Basically no effect - not a good result.

Bottom line: Stick with ordinary saline rinses to help with sinus congestion. The medical view is that saline nasal irrigation is recommended because it helps a little with nasal stuffiness or congestion, even though this effect is temporary (a few hours?). Also, try the probiotic Lactobacillus sakei, which is a keystone bacteria in the sinuses and which kills/dominates over many harmful bacteria (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus - a problem bacteria in many with sinusitis).

Excerpt from the 2021 study by Lambert PA, et al., in the medical journal  Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology:  Microbiomics of irrigation with xylitol or Lactococcus lactis in chronic rhinosinusitis

No significant trends in alpha or beta diversity as a result of treatment were observed. SNOT‐22 score did not change significantly following treatment with xylitol, L. lactis, or saline. [Translation: the microbiome (alpha and beta diversity) didn't change, and symptoms (SNOT-22 score) didn't change]

For years, many individuals have joked that just looking at food makes them gain weight. Well, maybe the joke was not too far of the mark.... Recent research found that just looking at and smelling food triggers the release of insulin.

In other words, just the sensory cues of food are enough to stimulate receptors in the brain and the nervous system to result in the pancreas secreting insulin. This is what normally happens in healthy individuals - and it's called the cephalic phase of insulin release.

Interestingly, in very overweight (obese) humans and mice, this response can be impaired.

From Science Daily: The mere sight of a meal triggers an inflammatory response in the brain

Even before carbohydrates reach the bloodstream, the very sight and smell of a meal trigger the release of insulin. For the first time, researchers from the University of Basel and University Hospital Basel have shown that this insulin release depends on a short-term inflammatory response that takes place in these circumstances. ...continue reading "Just Looking At and Smelling Food Can Trigger Release of Insulin"

Chromosomes, incl. XXY (Klinefelter Syndrome). Credit: Wikipedia

A recent study from the UK of more than 207,000 adult men revealed something surprising - about 1 in 500 men did not have the typical XY sex chromosomes, but instead have XXY (Klinefelter Syndrome) or XYY. And only 23% of those with XXY and 0.7% with XYY actually knew it or this was recorded in their medical records!

This means that most of the men did not have any obvious reason to do genetic screening. The men, all of European ancestry and between the age of 40 and 70 years, participated in the UK Biobank (so these adults were considered healthier than the general public).

One finding is that the XYY and XXY men tended to have more health problems than typical XY men, more lived alone or without a partner than XY men, and more reported loneliness.

Some of the XXY men had received the XXY diagnosis during adolescence for delayed puberty, or later for infertility or lower testosterone levels. Other features can include tall adult stature, high body fat percentage, poor muscle tone, low bone mineral density, and increased risks of neurocognitive disability, psychoses, and disorders of personality.

On the other hand, XYY men tended  to have normal sexual development and fertility. Features can include being tall, scoliosis, learning difficulties, poor muscle tone, increased central fat (abdominal fat), seizures, asthma, and emotional and behavioral problems (e.g., attention deficit disorder).

But what was surprising was that both XXY and XYY men were similarly at higher risk for several conditions: type 2 diabetes, venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. [See tables in study.]

Even though XXY and XYY can result in learning difficulties, also note that while 40.4% of XY men had graduated college, 16.3% of XXY, and 20.2% of XYY also had. In other words, there are heightened risks of certain problems (including diseases), but that doesn't mean it definitely results in problems. As the researchers point out: there are increased risks of "potentially preventable diseases", including the "metabolic and vascular diseases".

One question comes to mind: If there is no obvious reason, should a person (even babies) receive genetic screening to see what their sex chromosomes are? Does everyone really want to know? Is there really a need to always know by the person or others? Employers? To be labeled by insurance companies? Especially if there is no obvious reason to test.

From Medical Xpress: One in 500 men carry extra sex chromosome, putting them at higher risk of several common diseases

Around one in 500 men could be carrying an extra X or Y chromosome—most of them unaware—putting them at increased risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and thrombosis, say researchers at the universities of Cambridge and Exeter. ...continue reading "Extra Sex Chromosomes In Men More Common Than Many Realize"

The usual medical advice to take non-prescription anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., Advil, Aleve, aspirin) or steroids for pain and inflammation from an injury may actually backfire down the line. A recent study found that blocking inflammation from an injury actually causes an increase in pain and inflammation 3 months later (may become chronic pain), and which is harder to treat.

The McGill University researchers found that drugs that inhibit inflammation interfere with the natural recovery process, thus increasing the odds for chronic pain.  They found that neutrophils (a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection) play a key role in resolving pain.

"Neutrophils dominate the early stages of inflammation and set the stage for repair of tissue damage. Inflammation occurs for a reason, and it looks like it's dangerous to interfere with it," said Professor Mogil, one of the researchers.

The researchers looked at lower back pain and temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and found that the results appeared to hold for both mice and humans.

Bottom line: After an injury such as lower back pain, non-prescription medicines that only block pain are OK to take, for example, Tylenol (Acetaminophen) . It's the anti-inflammatory medicines that could lead to persistent (chronic) pain three months later. View inflammation as part of the healing process - don't want to interfere with that.

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Discovery reveals blocking inflammation may lead to chronic pain

Using anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to relieve pain could increase the chances of developing chronic pain, according to researchers from McGill University and colleagues in Italy. Their research puts into question conventional practices used to alleviate pain. Normal recovery from a painful injury involves inflammation and blocking that inflammation with drugs could lead to harder-to-treat pain. ...continue reading "Blocking Inflammation After An Injury Can Result In Persistent Pain"

Plastic bags Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This is a good time to reflect on the state of the Earth. One huge problem is the amount of plastic garbage being generated every year, including single use plastic bags. This has led to the problem of plastics and tiny plastic particles (from plastics degrading) now found everywhere in the environment - including the air, water, our food, and in us. Microplastics are even in our lungs and blood

Some facts to consider:

  1. Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.3
  2. Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year. People in Denmark use an average of four plastic bags per year.4
  3. It only takes about 14 plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile. [Full list from Center for Biological Diversity]

It turns out that just twenty companies are the source of more than 50% of single use plastic items (bottles, bags, food packages) that are thrown away. Globally.  Number 1 is ExxonMobil, and Dow is number 3. The full list of companies is published by the Plastic Waste Makers Index.

The list is of the top 100 companies in the plastic supply chain. They manufacture polymers - known as the building block of plastics. These 100 companies are responsible for over 90% of single-use plastics generated globally. Single-use plastics are made almost exclusively from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas).

The future: More states are passing single-use plastic bag bans, which apply to grocery stores (e.g., California, NY, NJ). Expect to see this policy spread to other states. Expect bans to eventually occur globally.

From CNBC.com, originally published May, 2021: Just 20 companies are responsible for over half of ‘throwaway’ plastic waste, study says

KEY POINTS :

...continue reading "Are Particles of Single Use Plastic Bags In Your Body?"